Ever since World of Warcraft was released in 2004, it has proven difficult for new MMORPGs to gain any traction, with a few exceptions. Now the IP that inspired Warcraft is getting a MMORPG of its own - Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR). The game is being developed by Mythic Entertainment, makers of Dark Age of Camelot, and it's due to launch on September 18th. Is Warhammer Online poised to become a contender?
I don't like to draw too many comparisons to other games, but Warhammer Online and WoW have so much in common that a comparison is inevitable. While Warhammer has a less cartoonish appearance, everything from the factions and races to the GUI and talent trees bear an unmistakable resemblance to WoW. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Given how successful WoW has been, other developers would be daft not to follow their lead to some extent. Rather than look at the multitude of similarities, I'll focus on some of the ways the two games differ.
Secondary targetting, which allows you to target an enemy and a friendly character at the same time, has found its way into WAR. When casting an offensive spell, it hits the enemy, but your heals and buffs automatically go to the friendly target. Some spells even make use of both targets: transfering health from the enemy to the friendly, for example.
The grouping system in WAR is a cut above what most games offer. As well as being able to search for groups, players can create "open" groups which anyone can join. When you enter an area, a small window lets you know if there are any open groups around. This system streamlines the whole process, optionally eliminating the "tells" and "invites" normally associated with grouping. It may sound simple, but it's remarkable how primitive features for finding a group are in many MMORPGs, including WoW.
Mythic also intends to make guilds a little more interesting in WAR by introducing a reward system for them. Guilds have an experience pool much like individual players, and as the membership accomplishes things in the world, they help to level the guild itself. This is a nifty idea that will give guilds a little more cohesion and will likely be borrowed by other games.